Quick Upholstery Tips and Tricks for YOU!

Feb 6th, 2013

I promised a few upholstery tips and tricks and when I promise something, I deliver {except that most of the time it takes a few more days than I originally planned}. Ok, let’s be honest, it always takes longer than I think it will! I’m a chronically time-challenged person. I was on time to roller skating last night, and it felt so foreign that I wondered if I was in the right place! Not kidding.
Ok, so I had a blast with a few friends a week or so ago upholstering chairs! We hung out, laughed and upholstered until the wee hours of the morning. I’m telling ya, if you have a chair to upholster, this is the way to do it. It’s a task that you need someone else’s help anyway. So, why not get a bunch of chairs done at once!?!?
So below I’m going to give you some simple techniques and tricks at how this ugly green chair became this darling chair for Abby’s room.
{Abby is my cute neighbor, and we’ve had her and her cute family on ATT several times!}.
how to upholster a chair how to upholster a chair
how to reupholster a chair how to upholster a chairs
Believe me, the task wasn’t a fast and easy one, but it turned out absolutely darling!
It took a lot of work to get it there.
Here is an unedited account of most of the process. BEWARE…you are about to see some HAWT photos of us! Plus most of the photos were taken with my iphone.
It took 3 people about 4 hours to complete this one chair {and that was AFTER the fabric had already been taken off.}
Step 1: Take off the fabric. Ha, well it sounds so simple, but you will need your game face on for this process.
Here is a quick tip via video for that process:
Honestly, removing the fabric is a huge task. 
Step 2. Spray down the foam with disinfectant spray
Step 3: Cover the existing chair with batting. This covers any deformities that the foam has.
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Step 4: Lay out the fabric you took off and use it as a pattern for cutting new fabric pieces.
Step 5: Remove all the hardware and as many staples as you can.  Save all metal tack strips. You will use those again.
Step 6: Complete all sewing needed for the project. For this project, my friend Dani sewed piping and she also sewed the front back piece also.
Step 7: Use the same technique I described in my Upholstery 101 post. Start putting the fabric back on with a staple gun in the opposite order that the fabric came off. You need at least one other person to pull the fabric tight. I don’t have any pictures of step 7. Darn it!
Here is the order of reconstruction.
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Step 8: When the front is complete, you can now add the piping. Staple the piping all the way around the back and down both sides.
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Step 8: Now use small strips of cardboard to help the top of your back pieces to be perfectly straight across the top. {See below what I use for the cardboard}. The piping serves as a perfect guide.

Whenever I upholster a chair I use a quick trick that my friend Jen taught me. Get a 12 pack of soda and cut the box into about 1/2 inch wide strips. That way you will get a perfectly straight line when you are upholstering the back {or sometimes sides} of your upholstery project.

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Just make sure to put the graphic side in so that you can’t see the words or “cranberry splash” through your fabric.
Upholstering the back top is easy, but it’s tough to explain. So, instead of just showing pictures, I thought that a quick video might illustrate the technique.

We decided to cover up the cardboard strips with a small amount of cottom batting. It was too obvious where the cardboard was. So, the batting covered it up. Here is a closer look in a quick video:
We cut small slits to upholster around the legs carefully and then moved on.  The tack strips can be a little tricky too. For this particular project, we had four tack strips. Two on each side in the front and then two on the back middle piece {one for each side.}
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With one person holding the tack strip in the right place, the other person places the tack strip into the folded fabric and pulls the fabric tight and pokes the spikes through being careful that the fabric is straight and tight.
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After the fabric is tight and the strips are poking through, the tack strip can be spun and placed in the correct place. We use a rubber mallet to pound the tack strips in. But, beware you can easily ruin the fabric on the chair, so we always use a spare piece of fabric in between the mallet and the newly upholstered chair.
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Continue onto the three other tack strips, and then staple a black piece of fabric onto the bottom. We use weed mat {for landscaping}. We have a huge roll left over from our backyard project.
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Voila! I hope you like it!
how-to-do-upholstery-piping how-to-reupholster-chairseasy-upholstery-instructions
how-to-upholster-chairs upholster-a-chair
I’m super excited for Abby to have her fun chair!


  1. wow great job that chair really pops now

  2. Love the end product of this project. I have two chairs in my garage right now that have great shape and bones but the fabric is truly awful. I know I’m not skilled enough, and I don’t have crafty friends to lure into assisting me, so there they sit…just waiting to have some re-do love applied! This makes me want to get on them!

  3. Wow! Awesome transformation! You make this look so easy :)

  4. amazing job, it looks great…thanks for posting.


  5. I’ve got an old wingback chair that needs reupholstering. I will definitely use your blog and tips for reference. thanks!


  6. As the daughter of a long-time professional upholstery man, I say WOW to your skills. I never upholstered — did the books though. One thought for those using fabric that has stripes or a definite pattern — when you place your pattern on top of your new fabric, the stripes or pattern should line up top to bottom — meaning the back of the seat stripes are in line with the seat cushion stripes. Your fabric is ah.maz.ing. Love it!

  7. Wow, who knew there was so much effort put into reupholstering a chair. Thanks for the tips, I feel more confident diving in!

  8. Jaye Leon says:

    Holy Cow – the Roller Plier-Majigger is HUGE! You should figure out how to patent that baby! I’ve got multiple pieces waiting for reupholtery work and I’m just so chicken to dive in! And I’ve taken a course at Joann’s even! I took your advice and found a pneumatic stapler this weekend at HD – marked half price! I told my husband that we absolutely NEEDED that tool!

    One thing I would suggest (I learned from Joann) As you take the pieces off – because you know there is an order to removing them, take a big, fat ‘ol marker and number each piece. Similar to your lettering but just mark it right on the fabric piece you are taking off. The old fabric is going bye-bye anyway so give it one last job to do – keeping things moving in order! I noticed little yellow notes pinned on that may have been your way of marking them but if that was me, I guarantee those notes would come unpinned somehow!!!

    Thanks for the inspiration. I know I can do this. I just need to make it a “girl’s night”!

    That chair is adorable!


  9. I realize we’ve never met, but I think I could kiss you right now for posting this! After putting it off as long as I could, I started to take the plunge and remove the fabric from my club chairs to begin reupholstering – and then totally freaked, chicken out, and now have a long tack strip hanging dangerously off the side of my chair. My shins will thank you as I easily pass by without feeling as if I’d walked through a bramble bush.

  10. I realize we’ve never met, but I think I could kiss you right now for posting this! After putting it off as long as I could, I started to take the plunge and remove the fabric from my club chairs to begin reupholstering – and then totally freaked, chicken out, and now have a long tack strip hanging dangerously off the side of my chair. My shins will thank you as I easily pass by without feeling as if I’d walked through a bramble bush.

  11. I’ve upholstered before, but I’m about to embark on some really difficult chairs and ottoman. I didn’t follow the part with the tack strips at all. Any chance you have a video of that? Thanks for the advice!

  12. Good job! I did it… with a similar Ikea chair that drove me crazy! And I has not been at all satisfied once it was finished. I was all hubs fault: he choose a geometric patterned fabric, which has been difficult to match the middle with the sides parts, so in the middle I put a plain patterned fabric to avoid ugly joints…. Better a plain or flower pattern like yours!

  13. I love all of your upholstery tips! I’m about to do a similar chair, so this one is perfect!

  14. great tips and the results are pretty darn perfect. Great job, I’m inspired to pick up a nasty/cheap chair and give it a try. Thanks

  15. Johanna Morehead says:

    Incredible talent. Some people have it,,some people don’t. I’m going to give it a whirl.Thanks!

  16. Great tips! And to think I have been removing staples all wrong! I am a little confused on how to use the tack strip, but there are a lot of great tips here I have never tried!!Thanks!


  1. […] So here is a great tutorial by Brook, from “All things Thrifty” for upholstering furniture, that simplifies the steps, and even includes video tutorials for some of these steps: http://www.allthingsthrifty.com/2013/02/quick-upholstery-tips-and-tricks-for-you.html. […]

  2. […] Grab a staple gun and a simple piece of furniture, like an ottoman, and give it new life. Brooke Ulrich, DIY blogger at All Things Thrifty, shows how to tackle reupholstery. Removing old fabric is one of the hardest parts of the job, and she offers plenty of additional tips and tricks. […]

  3. […] Brooke Ulrich, DIY blogger at All Things Thrifty, shows how to tackle reupholstery. Here are her additional tips and tricks for making the process easier. Here’s a quick video with a trick for removing old fabric from […]

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